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Friday, April 11, 2014

On being "outed" as a closet Darwinist

There is no universally agreed upon definition of "Darwinism" but many of us think it refers to a view of evolution that emphasizes natural selection as the dominant mechanism of evolution. That's why I don't call myself a "Darwinist."

What Is Darwinism?
What Is Darwinism?
Jerry Coyne on Darwinism
Don’t Call it "Darwinism"
Let’s Get Rid of Darwinism
I'm not a Darwinist, but I Ain't Signing
Why I'm Not a Darwinist

In our discussion about the differences between the human and chimp genome sequences, we've been talking about Neutral Theory, molecular mutation rates, population genetics, and random genetic drift. These are not traditional Darwinian topics. Nevertheless, the Intelligent Design Creationists over at Uncommon Descent want to make sure that everyone knows I'm a true Darwinist.

Here's what Vicent Torely and Branko Kozulic say about me in: Branko Kozulic responds to Professor Moran.
Is Professor Moran a Darwinist, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding?

On many occasions, Professor Moran has publicly stated that he does not consider himself a Darwinist. We would be in perfect agreement with him, and we ourselves would be happy to be called evolutionists, based on the following simple definition of evolution (Gillespie, p. xi): "Evolution is the change in the frequencies of genotypes through time, perhaps due to their differences in fitness." But there is one crucial issue that divides us: the fundamental claim of Darwinism that variations among individuals of one species are fundamentally no different in kind from the variations between individuals of different species. We disagree. As long as Professor Moran accepts and promotes the above claim, he remains (in this important respect) a Darwinist, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary.

To avoid any misunderstandings, we would like to say that we regard population genetics as an exact science. One of us (BK) views the present relationship between Darwinism and population genetics as follows: Darwinism is torturing population genetics to deliver what it cannot deliver – models that do not contradict what we currently know about the differences between species, which have been identified in the sequenced genomes of several thousand species.

Given the vital importance of population genetics models, we hope Professor Moran will answer all of the above questions. Since he is a biochemist, he can hardly be expected to know all the intricacies of population genetics (and neither would we claim to possess such knowledge), so we would encourage him to consult the textbooks and ask for assistance from his colleagues.


  1. I can already predict Torley's response.

    "Professor Moran refused to answer all of our points in detail, therefore he's scared and knows he's wrong and WE WIN! Jesus is proven!"

    Nevermind the fact that even relatively straight forward concepts such as mutation rates, neutral drift and fixation continue to completely elude them, and that their errors are so obvious that even IDiots are pointing them out.

  2. "Undergraduates at the University of Chicago, when I was a student there, learned to deal with all difficult conceptual questions by saying, authoritatively, 'Well, it all depends on how you define your terms.' True enough, but it didn't help us much, since we didn't know anything special about how to do the defining." Howard Becker, Tricks of the Trade, Chicago UP 1998.

  3. "But there is one crucial issue that divides us: the fundamental claim of Darwinism that variations among individuals of one species are fundamentally no different in kind from the variations between individuals of different species."

    I’m having difficulty parsing this.

    For example, I guess that between 90 and 95% of sequence variations among humans are functionally neutral. Likewise, I guess that between 90 and 95% of sequence variations among, say, wombats are functionally neutral.

    Does that mean I believe the variations among humans and those among wombats are “fundamentally no different in kind”? (Creationists sure do love their “kinds,” don’t they?) Does that mean I’m a “Darwinist”? Would Charles Darwin really have believed that? Do contemporary adaptationists?

    1. You should know that Branko Kozulić is the author of the Falsifiable Model of Intelligent Design ® which makes Testable Predictions about genomic differences within and between species.

      See also: Proteins and Genes, Singletons and Species, published online.

    2. Branko "Numerous Patents" Kozulic's Falsifiable Model of Intelligent Design seems very interesting. Apparently, Jesus was creating new species like crazy up until a few thousand years ago, when he quit cold turkey and started leaving it to natural processes. I'm not sure if species within Zonotrichia make the cut.

  4. Already mentioned on a previous thread, but if you go the Uncommon Descent article and scroll down to Comment #39, you'll see that even fellow IDiot Sal Cordova is conceding that Torley and Kozulic don't know what they're talking about.

  5. First of all "dominant mechanism of evolution" is terribly vague. Genetic drift causes so many wiggles of gene frequency that it is dominant, in that sense.

    I'd say natural selection is the dominant source of adaptation.

    As for what Torley and Branko "Numerous Patents" Kozulić are saying, I think that they are arguing that the differences between humans and wombats are not the same sorts of variations as we see in the differences between humans, or the differences between wombats.

    That is an interesting position because it draws the line at the species level. Differences between sibling species are apparently where "macroevolution" is found. By their view, the White-Crowned Sparrow differs from the Golden-Crowned Sparrow in very different ways than individual sparrows within each of those species differ from each other. Are we talking fundamentally new body plans here?

    1. Apparently, according to Torley's interpretation of Branko "Numerous Patents" Kozulić's "model of Intelligent Design" (see the link in my post above) we deal with two different kinds whenever one of them has a protein-coding gene not found in the other (typically there will be hundreds of them, but I suppose one should suffice if the difference is to be categorical). See Torley's comment under his post (#10), where he ponders over the African cichlid radiation and gets brain cramps.

    2. Well, some strains of maize have T-urf13 which is protein-coding in those strains and non-coding in other strains of maize.

      So Kozulic's falsifiable model is falsified.